9th Annual Theatre Festival continues a tradition of solid performances

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, August 29 2017

Stable and successful is how things are looking for the 9th Annual Gabriola Theatre Festival, which hit the island August 18 through 20.

Michelle Benjamin, Executive Director of the Gabriola Arts Council (GAC), said ticket sales overall were about the same as the 2016 festival, just under 2,000 were sold, with one sold-out show and two almost sold-out shows.

She credits the decision to drop the festival from ten main shows to eight shows as one of the reasons for the festival’s longevity and stability - an idea she says came from Alina Cerminara, GAC Events Manager.

“It was better for the performers, it allows more time for technical rehearsals, the background stuff, just easier all around.”

It also means more dollars for each of the performances.

“That makes bigger companies more willing to come - they are more likely to make the money and pay their costs.”

Official capacity for the current Theatre Festival tent is 280 seats. That includes any free tickets, volunteers and media.

The big question going into 2018 is where the festival will be next year, as the current ownership of Folklife has indicated it would like GAC to find another location.

Benjamin said, “We would like to be in the Village; we know it’s possible we might not be. 

“We’re open to a lot of options. It is difficult, because ideally we want to be on concrete because of the chairs. It is risky for us, if there is any moisture, even in August, to be on an unstable surface.”

There aren’t many paved options on Gabriola where one can set up a tent measuring 40 feet wide by 100 feet long, plus the rest of the festival that happens around the tent.

Benjamin said, “We really explored options this year and came up with nothing that was workable. We understand people’s concerns about parking and congestion in the Village; we’re not sure what our options are.”

She acknowledged there may come a time where a purpose-built site may need to happen, but there aren’t any properties right now that would be appropriate.

“If some of the big changes ever happen with the Lockinvar Triangle, that would be a lovely site for the festival - it would be a lovely site for GAC and other organizations to use.”

Benjamin said the good news is that the overall feedback on their surveys and satisfaction forms has been good.

“We always get feedback on specific shows and mostly small things we could tweak, but the overwhelming response has been positive. People love the outdoor stage, they love to hear the music while they are in line. 

“The magic show was really great this year - that was a partnership with the library, and we had a good turnout for the fashion show with the Gabe Shop.

“The Opening Ceremonies and Community Spirit award going to Robert’s Place. There was just so much affection and gratitude poured out...they were so honoured and moved to be receiving it. It was lovely.”

Next up on the GAC Festival Calendar is the Inaugural Music Festival at Twin Beaches Mall. Lineup and ticket details in the print edition of the Aug. 29 Sounder and on the Gabriola Arts Council web site.